Vice-presidential candidate

Paul RuenPaul Ruen

The AASV has had a tremendous impact on my career and, really, my approach to veterinary medicine and business. Since my first year in veterinary college, I have been attending the annual meeting and interacting with the people who breathe life into our swine veterinary profession. I want to thank all of you for your contribution to an organization that promotes knowledge exchange, friendships, and professionalism in the swine industry. And I am sincerely honored to be a candidate for vice president of our AASV. We have been fortunate throughout the history of our association to have leaders who are committed to our profession and who have brought their own unique perspectives and styles. Our organization is a composite of a very wide range of personalities and industry careers. When asked by several colleagues to run for office, I spent considerable time in discussion with my family, my veterinary partners, and other AASV members in order to be certain that I would have the support and time needed to be fully engaged on the board. Without reservation, everyone has been enthusiastic in their responses, and I am excited to be a candidate!

‘Tis the season of referendum for public school districts in Minnesota. “Vote Yes and Yes” is the slogan for the Fairmont school campaign, which is focused on reinvestment in facilities with updates and new construction. The AASV has as its primary mission the job of helping swine veterinarians reinvest in themselves through education – improving our skill sets to make us stronger in our core competencies, and exposing us to ideas and opportunities outside our “80” through a variety of continuing education methods.

Our AASV annual meeting was the first event offered by AASV and continues to be the highlight of our year. Without exception, I come away from that meeting humbled, recharged, and renewed: humbled by the breadth of talent, abilities, and knowledge of my peers, recharged because of the “can do” attitudes of AASV members and our determination to share ideas and to challenge each other for a better future, renewed in spirit and excited to be a swine practitioner in an industry that continues to present great opportunities in the midst of dramatic change.

For many years, my practice has employed the DISC Personal Profile System to help our staff become more aware of ourselves and to improve understanding and teamwork. That mix of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness within individuals and teams of people has fostered some spirited yet good-natured kidding within my practice! (This “I” is working on speaking less and listening more!) Our intent is to remind each other that while seeking the best for our business, we must also learn to enjoy and appreciate the differences among us. Likewise, we each have professional blinders and biases that we carry into our AASV organization. Our swine industry isn’t so large that we can afford to be competitors only – the richness of our profession increases and the pig benefits when we allow knowledge to lead us.

I grew up in southeastern Minnesota on a diversified pig, beef cow-calf, and grain farm with my brothers. We must have enjoyed the work and bonds of the farming community, because all four of us have chosen career paths in agriculture that range from growing grain and pigs to marketing, finance, and veterinary medicine. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with my biology and veterinary degrees, I began practice at the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic in 1992. Our business is predominantly pigs; a smaller component is beef cattle. We provide management services to many of our swine clients and work to keep our focus on the three P’s – pigs, people, and profit. Doing the right thing for the pig and people will result in high production and create the opportunity for a financially successful farm and industry.

I am currently the director for District 9 of the AASV (3 years) and have served on committees, too. For the 2002 IPVS in Ames, I served on the Production and Management Scientific Committee. I have been a speaker at numerous swine conferences, including Leman and AASV. My community involvement includes various fundraising events for several charities and coaching youth football, basketball, and soccer. I am active in my church’s adult education ministry and Sunday school and have served as a council representative and Sunday-school superintendent. My wife, Sue, and I have a daughter Sydney (14) and a son Jay (12) who are active in many school and community events. This year, we are a foreign exchange host family to Ingrid, a 17-year-old girl from Norway.

What is my vision for AASV? First and foremost, we concentrate on our core strength, which is to provide opportunities for our members’ continuing education. From our membership come the best ideas for structure and substance in our AASV “course offerings”. The annual meeting and associated workshops provide a great variety of interest areas and a forum to cement the relationships that bring us together to solve problems for the industry and for our individual clients, customers, and employers. JSHAP gets in-depth with research that is critically reviewed, the e-Letter updates those of us in a hurry with headline information, the AASV wet-lab (new in 2007) provides a chance to update our hands-on skills, and the “closed-door session” at World Pork Expo lets us discuss freely important current health issues. The AASV Web site is a tremendous resource, with articles posted from meetings and international news, and podcasts from lectures and interviews are available for download.

Secondly, we have an opportunity to use our collective knowledge and the spirit of cooperation in our organization to lead on important industry issues. Together with other like-minded agricultural organizations, we can build consensus on what it looks like to “do the right thing” for pigs and people. As veterinarians, we take an oath to at all times use our knowledge for the benefit of society. As in other facets of life, we can often choose our agenda, and at times it chooses us. We are not a political action group, however. I believe we must stick to our areas of expertise and to issues on which we have considerable consensus. And we must lead with knowledge. For example: welfare. We don’t have adequate information comparing various housing systems or penning arrangements, and haven’t controlled for genetics and other confounders, so interpretation of available data is limited. Can we provide guidance for projects that could lead to better decision making?

And thirdly, we must continue to find ways to cross paths and disciplines with each other, building relationships and increasing knowledge along the way. We are a diverse membership, representing corporate, academic, regulatory, industrial, and practicing veterinarians. We aren’t the AASP, we are the AASV – and that means we tend to come to the table seeking different menu choices. Our AASV staff understands that challenge, and yet this gives our organization a unique window into the swine industry. I have witnessed the value of diversity while serving as a district director – we are truly fortunate to have people who appreciate other points of view, yet demand that we get it right. We are a grass-roots organization: your involvement matters. At our fall board meeting, we discussed how to help new graduates assimilate into our profession and thrive as swine veterinarians. Think about becoming more intentional in sharing your experiences and connecting with a new colleague. All behavior types are invited – I’ll bet that you “D’s, S’s, and C’s” can bring your “I” up a notch to make this happen!

Thank you for being involved in AASV and for taking the time to vote. Anything that happens effectively within AASV happens because of a collaborative spirit. Two nominees are dedicating their time and energy to serve the AASV for the next 4 years. I believe that my experiences can be helpful to the board as we move toward the opportunities and issues facing our profession. If you have any specific questions please contact me; thank you for your consideration.

--Paul Ruen